The Meaning of Holidays Under the Plastic Wrapping

Mistletoe, jack o’ lanterns, love letters, turkey, American flags, presents, toy dracula fangs, boxes of chocolates, Black Friday, candy thrown by the handful. Each of these terms brings to mind a holiday, but some are more plastic than the others. Over the years, through more and more commercials or sales made, our holidays have become more store-bought. 

These days, Christmas means Santa bringing a toy whose name was copied in crayon from an Amazon page. Halloween can’t be mentioned without costumes from Spirit Halloween dominating the conversation. And nearly no one can think of Thanksgiving without also thinking of the Black Friday sales that start the minute dinner is over. Why have holidays become so commercialized and does this commercialization hurt anyone?
For those that think commercialization hasn’t affected or hurt them, explain the original reason for why St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated. Or Valentine’s Day. What happened so April Fool’s Day ended up as an official holiday? Commercialization has completely buried the meaning of these celebrations under 50% off tags and low-grade candy. For example, when Christmas comes to mind, so do the sales, and ads surrounding the holiday, leading to a dilution of holidays and their original purposes. Thanksgiving used to be about spending time with family while enjoying dinner, and now the weeks preceding Thanksgiving are filled with ads encouraging people to skip dinner to go fight the crowds for Black Friday sales. New Years is for partying and buying as much alcohol as possible, completely forgoing the original purpose of the yearly marker: to self-reflect and recognize one’s accomplishments. Valentine’s Day is for self-indulging on ice cream and avoiding eye contact with the “lovesick” couples, or buying extravagant gifts to look like those “lovesick” couples.
The biggest issue, this season especially, is for those service industry workers. Think about Christmas shopping the week before. It is a nightmare from the consumer end of things! Service employees work overtime or double-shifts, especially with the labor shortage this year. The Washington Post says “part-timers … who typically worked two shifts a week — are required to take on at least 50 hours a week”. “The demands kept getting more unrealistic as the pandemic worsened, but there were fewer workers to actually do the job. These overworked employees missed the precious time they could get with their families due to big companies sending out as many ads and cheap products as possible.
As a consumer, holidays are diluted by how many ads and sales are produced, we get poor quality products because of the influx of sales, and the true meanings of our celebrations are overshadowed by commercialization. As an employee, there are long hours working with the worst of the public while listening to the same cheesy songs over and over and missing these holidays altogether. So before putting on the Santa hat, the Easter bunny ears, the Valentine’s Day heart-shaped glasses, think about the true meaning of these holidays under all the shiny plastic.

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